Saturday 6 October 2018

Mainland tour, Day 10 - Joining the Stuff Readers Rail Tour

With thanks to Stuff Readers Rail Tour
Today we finished with our own private famil, set up to generate material for my World Famous in NZ column, and joined the main reason (as if anyone ever needs one) for coming down to the Mainland (aka South Island). Available to readers of the Stuff newspapers, this is nominally a train tour - but, given that there aren't that many passenger trains in NZ any more, it also includes a big coach element - that takes place in each island every year, and has done for about 20 years. The routes vary a bit, Dale and Philip who currently organise it having a great time researching new things to see each time, but inevitably cover roughly the same destinations. 
This one began in Wellington yesterday, and we were to join it in Picton when everyone arrived on the Interislander. That left me with a bit of spare time this morning, which I spent in the Picton Museum being horrified by their comprehensive whaling exhibit. It was a relief to escape to the railway station to check in with Dale and board, with the others, the Marlborough Flyer's fabulous 1915 Passchendaele steam engine waiting there in all its red, black and brass glory.
The carriages were authentically wooden and spartan by modern day standards, but it wasn't a long journey - just under an hour to Blenheim, including an unscheduled stop due to an entanglement with a fence (yes, very odd). No-one minded; and we were soon literally steaming along again, people waving and taking photos, the wheels rattling over the rail joints, the whistle blowing at every crossing, the staff friendly and chatty. 
Then we piled onto two coaches for the drive to Nelson via a stop at Pelorus Bridge, which crosses high above the river and is famously scenic (though perhaps not so much in today's dull weather). I swam in that river as a child but I think I'm too soft now to cope with that fabulously clear, but chillingly cold, water.
Arriving finally in Nelson, we checked into the Rutherford Hotel, now part of a group of about 80 people, ranging in age from 60 to 90, a mixture of couples and singles from both islands, quite a few of them repeaters on the tour. Though we missed last night's meet and greet, today they all seem jolly and cheerful, even the OWMs. Time will tell, she said darkly.

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